Upon starting the story mode of Shadow Ops: Red Mercury, you’ll quickly meet the main character Frank Hayden. Frank is a member of the Army's elite counter-terrorist group, the Delta Force, who is informed with urgent news that a new disaster is rising: the Red Mercury. Red Mercury is a terrorist weapon which, if released, could unleash powerful forces not seen to date. Now it is up to Frank to stop this sinister plot, and save the world.
Shadow Ops places a high emphasis on teamwork and tactics to accomplish goals . Progressing through the first levels, I realized the tactical element was irrelevant toward completion. This minor set-back would of been understandable if Shadow Ops would attempt to be a run-and-gun shooter, but the gameplay is meant to be taken with care and strategy. The most important, and noticeable mistake, lies within the game's AI. While enemies might take cover behind objects, their lack of ability to fight back is unacceptable. When battles are fought in close vicinity, terrorists will awkwardly just stand and fire in place. Shadow ops utilizes the trial and error method of level design and can easily be memorized, due to the horribly scripted opposition. The most challenging aspect of Shadow Ops lies within the game’s default difficulty setting, in which there will only be one life to spare. If you die, the game starts over.
Game environments will vary by size, location, and objectives. Every setting includes one or more missions, each filled with numerous checkpoints and challenges. In most circumstances, two other Delta Force operatives will accompany Frank in battle. Since the comrades prove to be useless, using them as pawns in your dirty work is the obvious choice. Unfortunately, friendly fire is automatically disabled in Campaign mode, but team members won’t appreciate your physical abuse.
Depending on individual missions, the weapons you use will vary. Some missions will require sneaking around with a sniper rifle, and others will leave you with AK-47's to infiltrate bases. Lying around will be ammo and health, so worrying about running out of each won’t be a major concern. Shadow Ops boasts aiming while crouched will increase your accuracy, I found that accuracy isn’t affected while running.
At first glance, Shadow Ops’ graphics are noticeably below par. Even for an Xbox game, the graphics feel dated and inadequate for today's bleeding edge standard, but the game does have it's visual moments. The lush terrain of the later jungle levels provide many innovative hidden spots to conceal yourself from the enemy’s sight. Outside of the terrain, special effects such as the flash bang grenade add to the overall visual appeal of the weapon system. Not unlike Rainbow Six 3, the flash bang grenade will whiten your screen and effect your sense of hearing. To correctly utilize Shadow Ops’ audio presentation, you’ll need to posses a surround sound system. Teammates will scream orders at each other and adversaries will also team up by informing each other on Frank's location. The addition of surround sound will make locating the direction of voices that much easier.
Other than the story-mode, Shadow Ops offers an on line mode using xbox live. First-Person-Shooters are notorious for having some of the best online multiplayer features, but unfortunately, Shadow Ops doesn’t manage to hold up well. Many of the maps are horribly designed, and lag cripples the experience. In fact, I wasn’t able to find a server without substantial lag after four or more people entered. Up to 8 people can play at once, even though I would only recommend 4 people at a time.
Shadow Ops: Red Mercury as a whole isn’t a bad game, but as the Gestalt theory states, the whole of an experience is different then the sum of it's parts. Shadow ops ends up being just another average game that tries well but just doesn't stand out amongst the myriad of great shooters out on the market. Save your money on this one, and give it a rent before you buy.